3rd Anniversary Post… sort of?

As I sit here to write about our third anniversary, I have to be honest and say that it’s been a rough couple of days. I would love to wish my husband a happy 3 years of marriage, and let that be it. But, the truth is, the end of his Father’s Day, and the beginning of our anniversary week have been high-jacked. Trigger warning: this post is long and a bit sad. I’ll spare you the graphic details, but if you’re not in the place where you can read about pregnancy loss, then I urge you to skip it and return to it another day. I also curse – sorry, not sorry.

Last week, I had a positive pregnancy test. It wasn’t just the regular ole’ “two pink lines” one is bright and the other is hard-to-tell type of thing… it was a digital pregnancy test that said “YES+” and I was so excited. Our family plan has always been to wait until Harvey turned two, and then talk about trying again, and to aim for the whole three-years-a-part timing thing. Once May rolled around, we figured we would hop on board and get the ball rolling. And then, just like last time, BAM! First time’s a charm… pregnant!! Woohoo!! February due date! Right before Harvey’s 3rd birthday. Time to get the list started: call the doctor, tell immediate family, start telling Harvey about the “baby in mama’s belly” – you know, the usual.

For half a week, we did all of those things. I made a doctor’s appointment for my 8 week ultrasound, we told Nick’s parents, and read Harvey the Berenstain Bears’ “New Baby” book.

**Quick break for a funny story here (When we pointed to my belly and told Harvey there was a baby in there, he put his face close to my stomach and pointed to a mole above my belly button and said “aww it’s a baby!!!” Nick and I laughed hysterically and then Harv did too. As sad as I have been for the past few days, this is a memory I will cherish and keep).**

A few days into this new exciting adventure, I started to feel anxious because I was experiencing some light spotting. It wasn’t bright red, so I figured after everything I had seen on the internet that it was totally normal and I tried to put it out of my mind.

Sunday started off like our normal weekend days do. We woke up, had a blast at the NC Museum of Art, stopped by the Raleigh Flea Market and had lunch… and then we came home. After getting Harvey down for a nap, I went to the bathroom and there it was… exactly what you don’t want to see when you think you’re pregnant. Shit. Fuck. Damnit. I’m getting my period. Sadness… fear… uncertainty… frustration… anger.

Let’s pause for a minute here, Sarah. What the hell is wrong with you?! SO WHAT! You’re getting your period, big deal. Don’t act like this is that bad… you have friends who’ve lost pregnancies, babies, children, and close loved ones. It’s not that bad. There are families who have been torn apart down at the border. Parents separated from their children for extended periods of time… that is actually horrible. What you’re dealing with…? It’s not that bad. It’s not that bad. It’s not that bad…. Tears. Lots and lots of tears…. YES IT IS THAT BAD!!! I WANT TO BE PREGNANT!!! This isn’t fair. Ugh.

I immediately start going through the list of all the things I could have possibly done wrong. I went running the day I found out I was pregnant. And then again on Saturday. And then I spread mulch in our yard for hours. I overdid it. I drank a cup of coffee every morning I was pregnant. Should I have stopped that? I had headaches last time I stopped drinking coffee. Everybody says all of these things are fine when you’re pregnant but what if they aren’t… what if I did this?

Then, I start trying to minimize it. I tell myself I have no reason to be this upset. It’s not like I was even actually pregnant. There was no heartbeat. Some people call this a “chemical pregnancy” and some people call it an “early miscarriage.” I don’t care what you want to call it. It feels like a loss and I feel sad and I can’t help that. I won’t always feel this sad, and hopefully this is the only hiccup in the road. But it might not be. We might be starting down a long and scary road in order to grow our family to the size we’ve always hoped for. There is no way to know for sure.

After that, I start to get jealous. Envious. Of all the families out there who have their beautiful second children. There, I said it. It’s not my fault, it isn’t their fault. It doesn’t mean I’m not happy for them… but I’m allowed to be jealous. Just for a little while, ok?

And then… worst of all, Ed shows up in the corner. He says, “Sarah, let’s get through this together. Crawl into my arms, I’ll be there for you. I’m always here for you.” You see, Ed and I used to be a pretty dynamic duo. We do tragedy well together. But… that was a long time ago, and I now belong to a pretty terrific trio known as “The Cainades” and those are the people I do life with. Those are the people I will always do life with.  Although I am sad, although it feels like I could easily rejoin him, I am able to reply, “Kindly, Ed, go fuck yourself!” And for a moment, I am proud of how far I’ve come. Good thing I go to therapy on Thursday!

Now, for the first time, I have a very tiny, small glimpse into what this shame feels like. Honestly, I’m not even sure if that’s the right word. I understand why people keep pregnancy a secret. You don’t want to get your hopes up. Not only that… you don’t want to get other peoples’ hopes up. I don’t want to let anybody down. I don’t want to let my husband down, I don’t want to let myself down. I don’t want my family and friends to get excited over nothing. We are going to the beach at the end of the week, and I wanted to tell them about our news. Now, I have nothing to share, and I’m heartbroken over that fact.

When I called the doctor to cancel my appointment, I was half hoping that the person on the other end of the line would give me some sort of “hope.” I was hoping she would tell me to come in, that they would double-check, and that everything was actually just a bad dream. She was super sweet, and told me that if I needed anything at all to call them back, including resources for my current situation. Another quick side note here: I am switching practices after Harvey’s scary birth situation – although I absolutely LOVE the Women’s Birth and Wellness Center and recommend them to anybody who will listen, I have switched to the Durham Women’s Clinic where midwives (and OB’s) deliver in a hospital. I had an appointment there earlier this spring and loved it… but it occurs to me when I hang up the phone, that I might not have any actual, real prenatal visits with them. I hope this isn’t the case.

I am going to be ok. I have a great support network and an even better partner to walk this journey with me. All of our journeys look a little different. The unknown is hard, but ultimately, I know everything will be fine – one way or the other.

I’ve been hugging my child a little harder this week. They are miracles. I’ve always known that, but sometimes the universe has a particular way of reminding you. To my sweet Nick, I am so glad that we decided to get married 3 years ago. I’m sorry that we had to experience this as a family, but I am so grateful that we experienced it together. You are my rock and my love. I am looking forward to celebrating our anniversary with you, and to have a great week at the beach and a fabulous rest of the summer. I love you.

To everybody else, I hope you are well. In this world, we are all walking our own path. Nobody else can walk your path for you. But, if you want – if you let them – there are people who are willing to walk it with you for a little while if you need them to. I am here as one of those people. I might not know what to say to you. I might not know what it is you need. But I will be here. We can sit in silence, or we can chat for as long as you need. Don’t tell me that “everything will work out the way it is supposed to” because I don’t even know what that is “supposed” to be. Just be there, show up, and I will do the same. Take care of yourselves and love each other fiercely. Peace be with you. ❤

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One Day at a Time, Step 9

This is the piece that I wrote for my Listen To Your Mother audition, and was honored to have been selected to share it with you all on stage last week! Thank you to all of my family and friends who came to support me! ❤

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Most women know that when they have their first child, the relationship they have with their own mother is going to change. Some women complain about the unwanted “advice” their moms give them, and some women are grateful for the time their moms take to help them with a newborn baby. Overall, I think I speak for most ladies when I say that the bond created between a mother and a daughter after childbirth is one unlike any other. To understand what it means to love another human life more than you love your own, and to understand what your mother went through to have you, well… that feeling is indescribable unless you’ve lived it.

For me, things were a little bit different. The day my son was born, I did not only become a mother, I became a daughter. Of course, yes, I’ve always been a daughter, but not in the traditional sense. In fact, I had already been a mother for quite some time if you want to know the honest truth. I was a mother to my brothers long before I was a mother to my own baby. My mother and I had more of a “friend to friend” relationship when I was a teenager and young adult, rather than a mother/daughter one… which is what it can be like to be the child of an alcoholic.

I learned to “mother” my siblings very well when I was in high school. I would take my two younger brothers to soccer practices, I would pack their lunches, and I would sign their parent permission slips. I would schedule their doctors and dentist appointments, make sure they had a ride home from a friend’s house, and keep the grocery lists up-to-date. I even filled out one of my brothers’ college applications! These weren’t really things that bothered me at the time because I truly didn’t know anything different. I knew my parents were loving, and I knew they were proud of me.

The first time my mom said “I am an alcoholic” out loud, I was a sophomore in college. Among some other very drastic life changes that included my parents getting a divorce, she told us that she was going to 12-step meetings. I was so happy with this news. Finally, I was going to get my mom back. I even went over to the local tattoo shop in Chapel Hill and put “One Day” on my wrist as a reminder of that feeling. But, by the time I came home for Thanksgiving break, she had fallen off the wagon for the first time, and my feelings of frustration, resentment, and sadness were growing. My mom was in pain, and I was in pain, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to cure it or to control it.

After going to treatment a few times, and continuing to build her support network in the recovery program, I could slowly see my mom coming back to me. The ways in which her alcoholism affected my life were deeper than I had realized at first, and would continue to be for a long time. When she first started talking to me about working the 12 steps, and who she needed to make amends to, I wasn’t ready for it. The day she asked for my forgiveness, I said all of the right words, but I wasn’t ready to give it. I think I was afraid that she would let me down again, that this time wouldn’t stick. Today, my mom has been sober for 6 years, 9 months, and 20 days, (not that anyone is counting!) and she has been a Mimi for a little more than a year.  I am grateful for every single second.

When Harvey was born, my mom came to Chapel Hill for the occasion. I was hesitant to ask her at first, because I just wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I had never done the whole “pushing a baby out” thing, and I didn’t know what kind of mojo I would need in the room. As it turns out, in the heat of the moment, I wanted my mom there.

I needed her support and nursing skills, and I think that having her with me while my baby entered this world was one of the single most significant events that either one of us has ever experienced. She has been the sweetest Mimi in the world, and Harvey is going to grow up knowing her for who she really is: a warm, loving, smart, and caring woman who has a heart that’s bigger than this room.

Now that I have my own child, and I have officially entered the newest chapter of my life, I feel ready to accept my mom’s amends. I feel like we have had an opportunity to start over, and I know not everybody gets one of those. I feel a renewed strength in our relationship and our ability to bond over my child. There is a new truth to the way we interact with each other.  I do not regret my life up to this point, you see, I would not be the teacher, coach, wife, mama, or friend that I am today if it weren’t for my experiences thus far.  If it weren’t for my mom and her new sense of self through sobriety, I wouldn’t understand the concept of beauty within our imperfections. I know that in her heart of hearts, my mom has loved me and wanted the best for me my entire life. The “Big Book” describes Step Nine as follows: “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development,” it says, “we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.”  The day I became a mother, I also became a daughter. The day I became a mother, I forgave my own mother. The day I became a mother, I also gained a mother.

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Here are some pictures from the show! 🙂

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Happy Birthday, Emma

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Dear Emma Lynne,

It has almost been one year since the day you were born, and I have spent time over the past twelve months searching for the words with which to share my feelings and love for you. This entry is just one small attempt to make that happen, and I hope your parents will welcome my thoughts.

Two weeks before you were born, I found out that I was pregnant. Having known your mama in high school and college, and knowing that she was pregnant with you, I took a special interest in your story and her journey. I loved that you were a surprise to the outside world. I loved that your mother shared pictures of her growing belly so fearlessly. I loved that you were going to be born at any minute, and I was one of the people checking social media to make sure I didn’t miss your arrival. All of these things were helping me with my transition into motherhood, as my own nugget was still very tiny, new, and a secret to the rest of the world.

And then, I woke up on that day last September, and read your mama’s post about your birth with a smile on my face. You were a girl, your name was Emma Lynne Maclaga, and on the day you were born, you had also died. My smile turned into tears, and I couldn’t help but sob. My reaction and feelings will never come anywhere near what your parents must have felt, and still feel to this day. However, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “how could this happen?” I was devastated, and angry. How did God allow such a sweet innocent life to slip away? It wasn’t fair. I couldn’t wrap my head or my heart around your passing, and I felt as if I didn’t deserve to have my baby still growing inside my womb while your mother only held you in her arms for a short while.

After asking all of those questions, it slowly became clear to me that God had a plan for you, and for your parents. Your mother, with such courage and honesty, began writing about you. She shared, what I can only imagine to be a fraction of her deepest feelings and heartbreak. She wrote about you and your beauty. It is through her words that I found a connection with you, and it is through her words that you’ve had such a profound impact on my life. With more grace and strength than I could have ever managed, your mother gave your life a purpose, and began the process of healing herself and other women who’ve also lost their babies.

The first time I saw your picture, I was blown away. You are gorgeous. Your soft, dark hair and perfect button nose made me wonder what my little one was going to look like. The day my sweet baby was born, I thought of you. When he first opened his eyes and looked at me, I began to cry, and I felt your presence with me. He was with me, and you were in heaven.

Five weeks later, I went to see your mama tell your story. Oh sweet Emma, she brought you to life with her voice. I have never been so moved. My heart felt as if it would burst right out of my chest. The room full of people could feel you with her, there is absolutely no mistake about that.

I believe that someday, you and your parents will meet again. Perhaps, you will have younger siblings, and I hope that you know you will always be their big sister. My wish for you is that you continue to watch over your family here on earth, as they will long for you the rest of their days. My wish is that your story continues to touch and heal lives. My wish is that your mother and father continue to find hope and strength, and that they feel you with them as they do.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl. You are loved from near and from afar. ❤

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